Perceptions of the Traditional Health Practitioner’s role in the management of mental health care users and occupation: a pilot study

Matty Van Niekerk, Abigail Dladla, Nolwazi Gumbi, Luther Monareng, Winston Thwala


Since 1992 discussions about the South African health care system highlighted the need for including traditional healers, because 80% of South Africans access them.  Nonetheless, there is little formal collaboration between allopathic and traditional health practitioners.

 The purpose of the study was to identify traditional healers’ awareness of occupational therapy, their use of occupations in their interventions, the allopathic health practitioners’ perception of traditional healers’ role in managing patients with mental illness and whether referrals occur between the two health systems.

Convenient sampling was used to select research participants.  Data for this descriptive study were gathered by means of a survey questionnaire containing open and closed-ended questions.  Data were presented using descriptive statistics.

 This pilot study suggests that traditional healers value occupations such as personal care and some use occupations in their practice.  Results indicate, however that the traditional healers are not as familiar with occupational therapists as they are with community rehabilitation workers.  The study also suggests mistrust on the part of allopathic and traditional health practitioners of each other.  In the absence of research into cooperation between traditional healers and occupational therapists, this study is valuable in identifying research questions about the use and value of occupation.

Key words: occupational therapy, traditional health practitioners, occupation

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ISSN 0038-2337 (print), ISSN 2310-3833 (online)

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